Campus News

Faculty submit more than 300 proposals for FYO seminars

More than 300 proposals-on topics ranging from “chicken-ology” to how to go viral on the Internet-have been submitted by faculty members interested in teaching First-Year Odyssey Seminars to incoming students starting in the fall.

“We’re very pleased with the response,” said Tim Foutz, director of the FYO program. “We are still taking proposals and will continue to do so. The desire is to represent all aspects of the university community and to provide students with a wide range of options.”

Students will register for the small-group seminars, taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty, during orientation. Seminar topics are chosen by faculty and generally reflect their area of scholarship.

Robert Beckstead, who proposed the chickenology seminar, is an assistant professor in poultry science and a Lilly Teaching Fellow. His research involves establishing methods for generating transgenic chickens and developing vaccines to treat a disease in turkeys. He currently teaches two molecular biologically based lab courses and has several undergraduates performing research in his lab as part of their academic curriculum.

His proposed seminar focuses on how chickens impact daily life as a source of food and vaccines.

“This class will provide a hands-on experience in the science and uses of chickens in the food industry, in the biomedical sciences and in the backyards of your neighbors,” he said. “It also will address ethical issues associated with poultry and the use of transgenic technology in animals.”

George Contini, an associate professor in theatre and film studies who has won numerous awards for his teaching and research, proposes to have students investigate videos that have become Internet sensations via sites like YouTube. Through discussion and research, students would examine the common denominators of the most popular viral videos and determine the practical and artistic demands that are involved in the making of a successful Internet video.

“This will involve an introduction to the techniques of film narrative, style, cinematography, editing, writing, directing and acting,” Contini said. “It also will lead to a deeper understanding of the use of current media in creating, reinforcing or commenting on popular culture. As a final project students will write and create their own online video and document their process through the use of an online blog or vlog.”

The First-Year Odyssey Seminars were a topic of much discussion at the annual Academic Affairs Faculty Symposium last month. Faculty talked about the features they liked about the program, including the opportunity to experiment with teaching techniques and to “sell” their discipline by communicating the passion they feel for their area of expertise.

Several faculty who teach mainly upper-division courses were enthusiastic about the chance to interact with first-year students as they arrive on campus.

Savannah Smith, a senior in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences who attended the symposium, said that the chance to have close interactions with faculty is a key element of the seminars for students.

“Students need to know they can contact faculty outside the classroom and need to be encouraged to build relationships that can last throughout their academic career,” she said.

University Professor Fran Teague, who has taught first-year seminars for the Franklin College and previously led a First-Year Learning Community, has thought through ways students can interact with her and each other in her proposed seminar, “Page to Stage.”

“The seminar takes students from a text to a performance,” she said. “We read background material and the script, talk to the director, actors and anyone else who knows about the subject or author, and then we all go to the play when it opens. Students lead a class, write papers and have dinner with me both before the show and at the end of term.”

Faculty still interested in submitting proposals can do so online on the First-Year Odyssey website ( A committee is in the process of reviewing and approving proposals. Committee members are Peggy Brickman, biological sciences; Carole Henry, art; Jody Clay-Warner, sociology; Roxanne Eberle, English; Kevin McCully, education; Diann Moorman, housing and consumer economics; and Paige Carmichael, veterinary medicine.

The FYO website also links to resources for faculty, including workshops offered through the Center for Teaching and Learning.